US EPA Administrator Michael Regan recently announced plans to bolster environmental enforcement efforts in communities that have been historically and disproportionately impacted by pollution.
Most notably, EPA will “use its authority to conduct unannounced inspections
of suspected non-compliant facilities.”
To further protect historically overburdened communities
, EPA announced additional actions as part of the Agency's commitment to environmental justice, including:
- Deploying a new program to expand air monitoring capacity, utilizing assets such as the ASPECT airplane, GMAP mobile air monitoring vehicle, and additional air pollution inspectors to enhance enforcement.
- Mobilizing Agency resources to invest in community air monitoring to better protect people and public health in vulnerable areas.
- Increased monitoring and oversight of polluting facilities to hold companies more accountable for their actions.
In a statement following his Journey to Justice tour, Regan emphasized that the Agency must act now, since overburdened communities have historically been neglected from Federal, State, and local action:
“The pollution concerns have been impacting these communities for decades. Our actions will begin to help not only the communities I visited on this tour, but also others across the country who have suffered from environmental injustices.”
In addition to the Agency-wide enforcement efforts, EPA is taking specific actions across Texas and Louisiana, such as piloting new air monitoring programs along three sections of Louisiana along the Mississippi River. The area is home to more than 150 chemical facilities, most within a 10-mile radius.
In Texas, EPA has increased its focus on plants that manufacture ethylene oxide,
a potentially cancer-causing compound used to make antifreeze among other substances. EPA plans to formally reject the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality's less protective risk value for ethylene oxide as well.
Environmental Justice in Recent EPA Enforcement Actions
EPA has already put its environmental justice initiative to work through enforcement actions. On August 26, 2021, EPA announced a settlement with an oil company related to its facility in Montebello, CA. Montebello is about eight miles east of downtown Los Angeles, home to about 61,000 residents (according to the latest census data) and known for its oil reserves.
As a result, the company agreed to pay a $132,676 civil penalty.
This is an excellent example of why facility managers and compliance officers must always be vigilant of new and changing EPA priorities to help ensure that personnel are trained for any challenges they may face.
DOJ to Hold Individuals Accountable for Environmental Crimes
US EPA largely relies on administrative (i.e., non-criminal, civil) enforcement, reserving criminal enforcement for the most egregious cases. To discourage corporate environmental crimes moving forward, the Department of Justice (DOJ) is taking a tougher stance on individuals responsible for criminal acts.
Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim
made it clear that DOJ takes accountability for environmental criminals seriously, and so does recent enforcement history: In FY 2020, EPA’s enforcement and compliance assurance actions resulted in 247 new criminal cases opened.
This is 77 more cases than the year prior and the most since 2014.
Convenient, Effective Online EHS Manager Training
Managing site compliance with the many complex EPA programs that affect your business—from the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts to TSCA, EPCRA, CERCLA, and more—is a major challenge. If you’re new to the field or need an update on changing EPA rules, online training is a convenient way to quickly build in-depth expertise.
The Complete Environmental Regulations online course
will prepare you to identify your site's liabilities and responsibilities under major environmental laws and regulations. This course is ideal for new EHS managers, environmental consultants, and anyone who wants clarity about how complex environmental requirements fit together.
Or check out these courses on specific EPA programs:
Clean Air Act Regulations Online
TSCA Regulations Online
Clean Water Act & SDWA Regulations Online
Superfund and Right-to-Know Act Regulations Online